Vascular Disease

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

Vascular disease refers to many different conditions and disorders that affect the circulatory system. Your circulatory system includes:

  • Arteries, which carry blood away from the heart
  • Blood, which delivers oxygen and nutrients throughout the body
  • Lymph vessels and nodes, which help your body fight illnesses
  • Veins, which return blood back to the heart

In other words, any condition affecting your arteries, veins, lymph system or blood can be considered a vascular disease. 

Incidence rates for vascular disease:

  • 8-12 million adults are affected by Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) in the US
  • Annually, this costs the health care system $102-253 billion annually, primarily due to late detection
  • There are approximately 100,000 amputations performed every year due to PAD
  • The one year mortality rate for patients post amputation has been documented as high as 60%  

Many Types of Vascular Disorders

Although there are dozens of vascular disorders, the following are some of the more common ones:

  • Aneurysms are bulges in an artery wall. They can form in any blood vessel, but they occur most often in the aorta, the main artery leaving the heart. When an aneurysm develops, the affected artery wall becomes thin and fragile and prone to rupturing. If an aneurysm ruptures in the aortic artery, it can have life-threatening consequences. Small aneurysms generally pose no threat, but they can lead to the formation of plaque or blood clots.
  • Lymphedema is an abnormal build-up of fluid the lymph system. It develops when lymph vessels or lymph nodes are missing, impaired, damaged or removed.
  • Peripheral artery disease occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries that lead to your head, kidneys, or arms and legs, preventing adequate blood flow to these areas. If undiagnosed and / or untreated, PAD can lead to leg pain while resting or lying down. This pain may be intense enough to disrupt sleep. In more advanced cases, PADD can lead to the development of non-healing ulcers, or open sores that do not heal, as well as injury or infection of your feet and legs, especially if you have diabetes. Critical Limb Ischemia (CLI) is the extreme state of this condition, which can lead to tissue death (gangrene).  This sometimes requires amputation of the affected limb.   
  • Varicose veins occur when the valves in the veins become damaged. They appear as bulging, swollen, purple ropes in the legs, just beneath the skin. They occur more often in women and tend to run in families.
  • Venous blood clots can occur in different ways: Deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein deep inside the body; a pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot breaks loose from a vein and travels to the lungs.

Vascular Disease Symptoms

Signs of vascular disease can vary dramatically, depending on which part of the circulatory system is affected and to what extent. Some of the more common signs and symptoms of vascular disease include:

  • Abdominal or back pain, which may indicate a blockage or aneurysm
  • Changes or discoloration on the skin of the lower legs
  • Cramping in the legs, especially when walking or exercising
  • High blood pressure
  • Non-healing wounds on the legs or feet
  • Pain, swelling or inflammation in the veins
  • Pain, swelling, achiness or numbness in the arms or legs

Diagnosing and Treating Vascular Disorders

To determine the cause of your symptoms, your doctor will need perform specific diagnostic tests. Some of the more common tools used for diagnosing vascular disease include:

  • Angiography 
  • Ankle-Brachial Index
  • Computerized tomography (CT)
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Ultrasound
  • X-rays

Treatments may involve:

  • Angioplasty
  • Medications
  • Stenting 
  • Various surgical procedures

We provide vascular assessments and a multidisciplinary approach for treating vascular conditions at all our facilities. 

Team Approach to Personalized Care

The Vascular Center at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center was the first in the state to offer a multidisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating patients with vascular disease. Our team includes vascular medicine specialists, cardiologists, neurologists, wound care specialists and podiatrists, who collaborate at every step—from diagnosing and treating vascular conditions to providing individualized follow-up care.

Today this multidisciplinary approach is available at many of our hospitals and some of our clinics.

Leading Midwest Vascular Program

Aurora is known for having one of the best vascular programs in the United States. Our coordinated care includes access to outstanding doctors and services for preventing, diagnosing and treating vascular disease. We also offer a full-service rehab program to ensure your optimal recovery.

Our doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or vascular specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.